Dr. Tony Leachon, the former adviser to the government’s anti-coronavirus task force, said yesterday that it was his responsibility to speak up against the Department of Health (DOH), which he accused of mishandling the Philippines’ response to the pandemic.
He told cable news channel ANC in an exclusive interview, “A certain part of me is a Filipino citizen who thinks about the lives of the healthcare workers who died. The millions of people who are actually on the brink of poverty, [the] 17 percent of Filipinos unemployed.”
“[This is why] I demand[ed] accountability from the Department of Health. That’s why I said the lead agency, the DOH, has lost focus in terms of priorities, risk management, data management and, of course, execution of plans,” the former adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) added.
Leachon, a cardiologist, also lamented that the Philippines is the only coronavirus-hit country in the world that uses the words “late” and “fresh” to describe COVID-19 cases in its daily reporting. He said the government needs “real-time, granular” data to make informed decisions in handling the health crisis.
The DOH classifies a case as “late” when the test result has been confirmed four days before reporting. A COVID-19 case is described as “fresh” when result was validated three days before the release of the DOH’s official tally.
“It’s my moral responsibility as an adviser. It is a disservice to the NTF if I did not sound the alarm then. That’s where I am coming from. I am a Filipino citizen. I am a patriot, and I would like to clarify that there’s no malice just to inform the public about this. Because in a crisis situation, we need to be transparent, number 1. Number 2, we need to be open and straight forward,” he added.
Leachon was forced to resign from the task force after he wrote on social media that the DOH “has lost focus in everything. Risk communication, priorities, data management, and execution of all plans.” The criticism reportedly displeased both DOH Secretary Francisco Duque and Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, both of whom allegedly pushed for Leachon’s forced resignation. Duque, along with other DOH officials, is now being investigated by the Ombudsman for the “alleged irregularities and anomalies” that he may have committed in his post.
However, Roque denied yesterday in a virtual presser that he had a hand in Leachon’s removal from the NTF.
“He’s giving me too much credit….I do not have the power to compel any one of them to resign,” Roque said in English and Filipino.
Roque admitted that many in the government, including President Rodrigo Duterte, did not approve of Leachon’s criticism of the DOH.
“If he is talking, casting doubts on the DOH’s figures, all of the members of the strategic task force are now asking, ‘Why are we being criticized by our ally?’ In our last meeting with the president, the president asked, ‘Why is Leachon speaking this way?'”
“So let me correct you, Dr. Leachon, it’s the president who said that you should not be doing what you are doing,” Roque said.
This article, It’s my moral responsibility to speak up against Health Department, says Dr. Leachon, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!